While the technology behind 3D printing has been in use since the 1980s, 3D printing applications have seen a significant uptick in interest in the last few years due to technological innovations. How much of an uptick? Spending on 3D printing is anticipated to reach $26.7 billion in 2019. So, if you’re thinking of buying a new 3D printer for additive or augmented manufacturing purposes for your organization, you’re in good company. If you’re not, or you’re on the fence and are looking for more information about how your organization could benefit from a new 3D printer, read on for some of the most exciting uses of 3D printing and ways businesses have leveraged the technology for competitive advantage in 2019.
3D Printing By the Numbers
Companies are leveraging 3D printing primarily to accelerate product development, with 98% of respondents to a Forbes study identifying 3D printing as a primary avenue to achieving a competitive advantage in their respective industries. It is most popular in the R&D, design, and production industries, where 3D printing has the most impact on lowering costs and streamlining and optimizing supply chains and production processes. This stems out of the technology’s primary benefits: a strength in producing items that contain complex geometries quickly, facilitating rapid iteration, and reducing lead time.
Popular Uses for 3D Printing
Dialing in on specific uses, the most popular uses of 3D printing fell into three categories in 2018: production, prototyping, and creating proof of concept models. In 2019, we’ve seen five sectors embrace 3D printing on a wide scale.
The last several years have seen the medical industry embrace uses for 3D printing in a huge way. One major application has been in bioprinting, which allows 3D printing methods to manipulate cells and growth factors, fashioning tissue-like structures into printed artificial organs. Similarly, 3D printing can be applied to the production of customized, porous metal orthopedic implants that are less likely to be rejected by the body, providing patients with faster recovery and healing. Prosthetics are another avenue of production where 3D printing is leveraged to create highly customized and much more affordable alternatives to traditional models. Finally, a process similar to that used in bioprinting allows the creation of realistic 3D printed tissues against which pharmaceutical companies can ethically test new medications in order to correctly identify side-effects and benefits.
Prototyping and Manufacturing
Depending on the industry, innovation and iteration in the manufacturing industry have historically been a costly and time-consuming process, where it could take weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a single mold from an injection-molded prototype. When 3D printing was first introduced, it was originally intended to speed up the prototyping process and decrease the overall costs. Suddenly, prototypes could be fabricated, to specification, in hours instead of weeks, and at a minimal cost.
Commonly referred to as additive manufacturing in the manufacturing industry, 3D printing is most effectively deployed in situations where it isn’t cost-effective to mass-produce a product, but rather in small batches or even on a “built to order” basis. This has given rise to companies offering cloud-based services where clients can place customized orders for additive manufacturing jobs remotely, and outsource the actual production.
The construction industry has embraced the 3D printing model in a huge way in the last few years, and the trend has continued into 2019. Extrusion methods for polymers, concrete and cement, wax, or foam are popular applications, as are powder bonding and additive welding. These methods are applicable commercially, for private residences, and even in industrial and public sectors. The benefits lie in materials literally built to design spec affordably and rapidly, resulting in complex but accurate architectural designs to be constructed more rapidly, reduced labor costs, and reduced waste overall.
With the first large-scale application of 3D printing taking place in 2016 in the construction of a pedestrian bridge in Madrid, Spain, current trends include using the technology in the production of scale model architectural models that have led to increased speed and complexity in construction methods overall. Moving forward, it’s anticipated that 3D printing will play a huge role in facilitating the construction of extraterrestrial habitats, as the technology will minimize the amount of raw materials that need to be transported.
Art & Jewelry
Creating customized jewelry and artwork can be challenging. Artisans have to deal with the limitations of materials they are using and generally have a very limited array of traditional methods they can employ in order to create unique designs. Enter 3D printing, which allows much more affordable customization and unique designs to be executed with traditional materials. It also allows for creative approaches to art not otherwise possible, such as the printing of physical representations of sound waves or unique sculptures. It even opens the door to allowing those with visual impairment to be able to experience artistic mediums in new ways by allowing 2D paintings to be printed in a 3D form.
STEM education is crucial to the future of the world, and more educational institutions are leveraging 3D printing as a way to ensure students are able to experience real-world application of the processes involved with technology and engineering, such as prototyping and iterative development. It also allows schools to create high-quality scientific equipment affordably. Other 3D printing applications in education impact students learning in design, engineering, architecture, biology, and chemistry.
The Equipment Hub Has the Equipment You Need
No matter what industry your organization operates in, if you’re in the market for a high-end 3D printer, Equipment Hub has you covered. As a full-service machinery dealer, we provide industrial equipment solutions to manufacturers and businesses on a global scale. If you have a gap in your production capacity, we have the equipment you need to maximize productivity and gain an advantage over your competition. We are an exclusive purveyor of Thermwood CNC routers and 3D printers, as well as a buyer and reseller of fabrication machinery, and we are ready to ensure you find the equipment you need for all of your 3D printing requirements. Contact one of our equipment experts today if it’s time to invest in 3D printing for your company.
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
Sign up for our newsletter using the form below to get company insights and updates directly in your inbox!